It is difficult finding indigenous travel experiences that communicate the importance of indigenous wisdom within the tourism framework. Ayniglobal.org is a great example. They are “dedicated to preserving authentic traditions and passing on indigenous wisdom.” Unfortunately, most indigenous travel day trip itineraries are too superficial. They usually include a dance/artisan display, authentic food, meeting local people and exploring nature; but, many trips usually do not include information about the indigenous group’s spiritual beliefs and practices, their cultural philosophies or even their views about everyday life.
There can be a conscious effort to talk about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of indigenous peoples’ beliefs even on a day trip. For example, instead of travelers learning just about food, also talk about the cultural and/or spiritual symbolism of certain types of food. When out walking through nature, instead of just showing travelers a mountainside important to indigenous people, explain why it is important! Many indigenous people revere all nature as sacred and certain areas of nature are equivalent to a church or temple. There is a direct personal relationship to nature and everything in it. Some indigenous people, like the Q’ero people in the Andes Mountains, “have individual names and uses for all plants, grass, birds and animals” (Williams,100).
When planning indigenous travel, it is important for tourism businesses to learn how to communicate with indigenous communities in a respectful way. Dr. Susan Guyette, in a webinar about Sustainable Cultural Tourism, suggests asking these questions:
“Are sacred sites being protected? Are welcoming songs being practiced and documented? Are indigenous entrepreneurs being assisted, being trained and given promotion? Is ecological restoration taking place?” Have respect by listening. Listening is a central aspect of communicating with indigenous community. Make sure that decisions come from within a community.”
Indigenous travel has the potential to empower indigenous communities economically as well as culturally and spiritually. If done in a respectful manner, indigenous communities have the opportunity to preserve culture as well as alleviate poverty. Dr. J.E. Williams from Ayniglobal, shares his thoughts on how social businesses can empower indigenous people:
“A social business for indigenous people gives everyone in the community the opportunity to participate, just like they would in growing crops, in creating the kind of lifestyle they deserve. They have the opportunity to mobilize their innate talents and to employ their creativity and skills for solving their own problems, for determining their own destiny, for banishing poverty from their lives by their own efforts, and freeing their children from the damaging effects of generations in poverty.”
Guyette, S. (2012, November 12). Sustainable Cultural Tourism [Webinar]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/53652132
Williams, J.E. (2005). The Andean Codex: Adventures and Initiations among the Peruvian Shamans. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.
Williams, J.E. (2013, May 19). Social Business: Not Just a Dream, a Reality – Founding of a Q’ero Run Tour Company [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://ayniglobal.org/social-business-not-just-a-dream-a-reality-founding-of-a-qero-run-tour-company/